Reply from Hannah about everyone's feedback in this thread and in the comments section on the survey.
Firstly I would like to thank all of you who have completed the questionnaire so far, I have been thrilled with the response and I am extremely grateful for the honesty and openness with which many of you have responded. Secondly, I would like to thank all of you who have left me feedback, both on the questionnaire and here on the forum - it is really useful for me to hear what you think. Ultimately, I want the questionnaire to be as easy and trouble-free for you to complete as possible, so it is good to know some of the issues that have been highlighted. This is my attempt to address them.
The first issue seems to be regarding the question asking participants to identify and describe one traumatic event, which several of you have quite rightly highlighted that this feels impossible for those who endured prolonged abuse or multiple traumas. This is one of the key problems with research in this area, as it presumes that people can identify one single traumatic experience and refer to that when responding to questions, when in reality it can be extremely difficult to separate out anything specific from periods of prolonged trauma and its consequences. I debated over how to phrase this question for a long time when designing the study, and decided to use the standard format seen in most research studies in this area, but I now see it might be more useful if I rephrase it, or at least clarify here to those of you yet to complete it but intending to do so. Basically, when completing the questionnaire, if you are able to identify one particularly distressing or traumatic incident, then do so, but if you can't then don't worry about it - you can be as general or specific in your response as necessary. Furthermore, as King Tut points out fantastically (and much more eloquently than I would be able to!), it is often the response to the event and its emotional aftermath that is experienced as most traumatic, rather than the details of the event itself. So if you want to write about feelings rather than specific events, that's fine too. I am here to learn from you guys - you know the right way, not me, so answer this question however feels best for you.
The second issue relates to the final section of the questionnaire, which asks about how your life may have changed following your experience. Many of you have pointed out that you were so young at the time that it is hard to see whether these changes occurred because of the event or whether they would have happened anyway. Similarly, did they occur because of the event itself or the experiences people had in its aftermath? All of these are really valid points to raise, and to be honest with you I don't know that there is a right answer, or indeed a question out there that would be able to find the answer. These questions are much bigger than my whole PhD can address!
I guess M3 points out the crux of the matter:
"Many of these questions I would give different answers if you are asking: 1) At the time of the abuse, how did the abuse affect you in these areas, versus 2) Now that you've been in recovery, how do these things affect you. Many of the changes that the abuse made in my life I've reversed since I've been in recovery. So one answer is more directed to the affects of the abuse, but the answer as to how I am now reflects the affects of my treatment and healing."
I agree wholeheartedly with this issue, but I suppose not everyone who participates in the study has reached a point where they can separate their thinking into 'before' and 'after' recovery; or into effects of abuse vs. effects of healing. What this essentially highlights is that every single one of you has had a completely unique experience, and are at different stages in your healing journey. What this means is that the questionnaire will never be a perfect fit for any of you. I am having to use a very broad approach to deeply personal issues - if I could interview every single one of you personally then I could shape the questions to fit better, or I could clarify what I mean, but unfortunately I am having to use a 'blanket' approach in order to obtain as much information as possible in a relatively short time. The consequence of this is that the questions may be more relevant or easy to answer for some of you and not others.
I hope I have been able to clarify a few things for you. I am truly grateful for your willingness to participate in my research project, and I look forward to learning more from the responses.
With best wishes to all members of the MS community,